Like most people, you have probably endured a “dating drought.” But perhaps things have changed for the better. Maybe you’ve even experienced a romantic downpour and you are now faced with a dilemma that would’ve seemed impossible through the dry years: You must choose between two or more potential partners.
Some might wish for such a problem, but the reality is less rosy than it sounds at first. How do you decide? What criteria do you use? Won’t the comparison between two worthwhile human beings always be an “apples to oranges” proposition? The answer is yes—but there is a way to make things easier on yourself.
Rather than stacking your prospective partners against one another like coins on a scale, a better approach is to take the opportunity to know yourself. Only then will you be able to tell which person fits best with who you are and what you hope to be. Personality traits in your future lover, even truly admirable ones, are only desirable if they are compatible with what you want and need.
To begin, ask yourself these five questions:
1. “What do I desire most—in a partner, but also in life?”
A typical approach to choosing between two lovers would be to start a list: “He is…” or “She is…” Resist that. Instead, begin with the words, “I want….” Sure, many of the items will describe desirable attributes you hope for in a partner, but by shifting the focus, you’ll avoid defining the choice only in terms of someone else. You’ll remember that you want far more from life than any one person can ever deliver—adventures, achievements, meaning, and belonging. Then consider who is most likely to give you a boost and cheer you on.
2. “What do I fear most?”
The flipside of desire is dread. If the question above is about discovering your personal “must haves,” then this one is designed to remind you of your “can’t stands.” Everyone harbors particular fears, rooted in childhood experiences and wounds. Perhaps you dread the prospect of extreme poverty, or of living with substance abuse, or failure to meet your personal goals. Naming what frightens you will help you see more clearly which partner is the best ally in helping you avoid it.
3. “What do I do best?”
If you were a superhero, what would your signature power be? If you were recruiting a sidekick, what traits would that person need to compliment your own super potential? Not that your future relationship is all about you. In any lasting relationship there will be times when you play Lois Lane to your partner’s Superman. But when choosing between two seemingly super options, it helps to understand your own strengths to see how each candidate might enhance or diminish them.
4. “Where do I need help?”
Naturally you can’t consider your personal powers without assessing your weaknesses. Do you struggle with self-sabotage at work? Have trouble managing your finances? Have a soft spot for lost causes? Overeating? Some people will perfectly counterbalance you where you need it. Others might tip the scale in unhealthy ways. Knowing yourself is the key to seeing which partner is which.
5. “Where do I hope to wind up in 10, 20, 30 years?”
The future is impossible to predict, and any number of unforeseen events can rewrite your best-laid plans. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t project yourself into the coming decades of your life and dream of where you’d like the road to lead. You will create a common dream with whomever you choose, so be sure he or she is willing to make room for your unique vision.
Life never comes with a guarantee. No choice will be perfect. But when you must pick between lovers, YOU are the best measuring stick you’ll ever get.